The History of the UK Travel Blogosphere

As a panelist on the international travel blogger panel at the Travel Blogger’s Meeting #TBMCatSur in Tarragona, I was asked to make a short presentation on the history and current state of the UK travel blogosphere.

I struggled to think of much that was unique to UK travel blogging. I can’t be alone in that; I asked for any thoughts on the UK travel blogosphere on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ but drew a blank. Therefore, my presentation was written from a personal perspective.

tbmcatsur panel

The International Blogger’s Panel at #TBMCatSur by Planeta Dunia

I assume that English being a language in common with North America, meant that many UK travel bloggers have learned from and made contacts within the more advanced North American travel blogging scene.

There’s nothing new about travel writing, whether that be in the travel sections in newspapers, magazines or travel diaries. However, travel blogging with its low barriers of entry, means that anyone can become a travel publisher.

I created Europe a la Carte in 2002. I always thought of it as a business. Initially to earn commission on bookings and then as an online travel magazine. The Blog was added as a sub domain in October 2006. At that time I only knew of one other travel blogger, Darren Cronian of Travel Rants.

In March 2008, I attended the first ever international travel blogger conference at ITB Berlin.

travel blog camp 2008Darren set up Travel Blog Camp, the first travel blogging event in the UK during the World Travel Market in London in November 2008. I gave a talk on the ‘Future of the Travel Blog“.

In Spring 2009, I had two very different experiences. The Istrian Tourist Board put together their first travel blogger-only press trip. Conversely, it was quite a struggle to convince a PR working for another destination marketing organisation that a blogger should be invited on a press trip to Zadar; they had only considered print and radio journalists until I contacted them.

By 2009, UK travel brands were beginning to see the potential of working with travel bloggers. I secured sponsorship that Summer from a UK budget airline, bmibaby, for the ten day Europe a la Carte Summer 2009 UK Blogging Tour.

In the Summer of 2010, I organised the first Edinburgh Travel Tweetup which had six attendees (including me) – the next Edinburgh Tweetup had around 50.

I was a speaker at Travel Blogger Exchange’s (TBEX) first foray into Europe, TBEX Copenhagen in October 2010. My presentation was “So You Wannabe a Travel Blogger – Keeping It Real“. This was my response to all the hype about this dream job of traval blogging.

In November 2010 I took part in the easyJet 15 Hour Blogger Challenge. As a result of everyone who voted for the video of my challenge in Paris in the Facebook poll, I became Top Traveller, so again, many thanks to the voters.

The number of travel bloggers in the UK was growing steadily. I was on the panel at the first TBU conference in Manchester in March 2011. There were lots of new faces there. Being at that event prompted me to write “Where are Travel Bloggers Heading Beyond the Next Free Trip?“.

In November 2011, there were even some travel blogger events at the World Travel Market in London.

Travel blogging had become mainstream. Travel brands and their PRs had finally recognised that they could get valuable (and relatively cheap) exposure on travel blogs and through the bloggers’ social media networks.

The hype about this dream job of travel blogging was getting louder. It was beginning to feel like a lot of travel blogs were being written for other bloggers, rather than for consumers. One measure of travel blogging success was the number of press trips on which bloggers had been invited.

There was a lot of nonsense talked about measuring a blogger’s influence based on the number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans, which can be manipulated or even bought. Surely, it’s much more important to write some decent optimised content about a destination/hotel/restaurant which can still be found years later, than focus on how many Twitter followers were supposedly reached by a tweet, which is so ‘of the moment’?

But what about the future?

It’s become more evident that it’s really hard to earn a living as a full time travel blogger. Free trips don’t pay the bills. Having a niche site is more likely to attract advertisers looking for exposure to a targeted readership. Bloggers can develop products to sell, e.g. travel apps and ebooks. They can organise events for travel bloggers which attract sponsorship, do consulting or some freelance writing for other publications.

Travel bloggers can also think of ways to offer value to travel brands, or destination marketing organisations, that merit payment. The trick with this approach is to be paid for your time/expertise/reach whilst still retaining editorial control, so that your blog doesn’t read like an advertorial.